Archives for category: Ethics

Carol Burris, executive director of the Network for Public Education, asks you to show your support for #AbbottElementary, the delightful weekly show that favorably portrays the real life of teachers, students, and public schools. The show was written, produced by, and stars the amazingly talented @QuintaBrunson.

Carol writes:

ABC’s award-winning sitcom Abbott Elementary is the story of a wonderful group of teachers who stick with a challenging Philadelphia public school because they love teaching and kids. In recent episodes, it has been critical of the effects of charter schools.

It seems hard to believe it, but “Ed Reformers” are attacking its creator, Quinta Brunson, on Twitter.

Please stand up for Abbott Elementary & Ms Brunson by copying and tweeting the Tweets below. The show and its producers need to know you stand for truth-telling and for public schools.

Thank you @AbbottElemABC & @quintabrunson for yr amazing show that dares to tell truth abt how charters hurt public schools. Love the show. Keep up the great work! I love #AbbottElementary

How small @JeanneAllen & @edreform look trying to suppress @AbbottElemABC from criticizing the charter system by lying about @quintabrunson. I love #AbbottElementary

When @AbbottElemABC critiques Pa billionaire trying to undermine public schools w/charters, @edreform goes on the attack. Pathetic to go after a beloved show & its beloved creator/star @quintabrunson. Gotta say it. I love #AbbottElementary.

You can read about the show’s critique of charters here and the Jeanne Allen controversy here including the Tweets in which Brunson pushes back.

Thanks for all you do,Image

Carol Burris

Network for Public Education

Executive Director

A friend in South Carolina sent me this public statement by a fearless district superintendent. He asked questions that most state legislators cannot answer. He knows that vouchers will subsidize the tuition of students already in private schools, and that private schools retain the right to refuse any student they don’t want.

J.R. Green, Ph.D, superintendent of the Fairfield County district sent out this letter:

Do the Advocates of “School choice” really believe in “School choice?”

Recently the South Carolina Senate passed S.39, a controversial voucher legislation that proposes to provide parents up to $6,000/year of state money to attend a private school. At full implementation by year three, the voucher program will cost approximately $90 million/year. Proponents of the legislation suggest that school vouchers empower parents to select the school that best fits the needs of their children. But does this legislation actually empower parents, or private schools that will ultimately benefit from the infusion of state revenue? The undisputed fact is that S.39 will provide private schools with state revenue, yet allow those same private schools to pick and choose the students they elect to serve. In essence, we are providing private schools with public money, without a commitment to serving the public student.

I respect any parent’s right to choose the educational option they see is best for their child. However, receiving public funding should obligate these institutions to serve all public school students, just as public schools are required to do. Private schools who receive this funding should not be allowed to deny students because they are Exceptional Education students, failed to meet qualifying scores on entrance exams, level of parent participation, etc. All students who request admission should be accepted. Amendments were offered during the debate of S.39 that would ban discrimination based on religion or disability. Those amendments were rejected and as a result would allow a private school receiving state revenue to deny a student because of an intellectual disability or physical handicap. This is the current reality for private schools in South Carolina, and I respect their right to restrict enrollment, as long as the school is being funded with private money. However, the acceptance of state money must require a different standard. During the senate subcommittee hearing debating the voucher legislation last year I shared the published admission criteria for a local private school. The school clearly outlined the following:

• Does not provide a program of study and support for students with learning disability, an IEP, or 504 plan.

• Married students, pregnant students, and or biological parents will not be allowed to attend.

• Reserves the right to reject any application for admission or employment and further reserves the right to terminate any association with students if it determines that such association is incompatible with the aims and purpose of the school

This clearly represents private school “choice” not parental “choice.”

Finally, since the Education Accountability Act of 1998, the general assembly has touted the benefits and necessity to administer yearly assessments to public school students. These assessments have been advertised as the key to improving education outcomes in South Carolina, and essential to ensuring the public can readily measure the return on the education investment. I’m perplexed as to why the private schools that would receive public funding would not participate in the same system of accountability? Why would these schools not be required to administer the same state assessments, and publish their data just as public schools are required to do? If this system of accountability is necessary and appropriate for public schools, it should be necessary and appropriate for private schools accepting public funding.

Although I think the legislation is unconstitutional, and represents little value to improving student outcomes, if the South Carolina General Assembly is committed to making school vouchers a reality, these schools must be accessible to all students, and accountable to the public just as public schools. Let participating schools open up their doors to all students, administer and publish the same assessments as public schools, and let the chips fall as they may.

J.R. Green, Ph.D.


Fairfield County Schools

Bravo, Dr. Green!

Hannah Natanson of the Washington Post wrote about the rapidly spreading censorship that is casting a pall over many classrooms. State legislatures in red states have passed scores of laws describing in vague terms what teachers are not allowed to teach, even if it is factually accurate. Imagine a teacher told he must not say that slavery was wrong. Teachers comply rather than be fired. Some quit. And people wonder why there are teacher shortages!

She writes:

Excerpts from Mary Wollstonecraft’s “A Vindication of the Rights of Woman.” Passages from Christopher Columbus’s journal describing his brutal treatment of Indigenous peoples. A data set on the New York Police Department’s use of force, analyzed by race.

These are among the items teachers have nixed from their lesson plans this school year and last, as they face pressure from parents worried about political indoctrination and administrators wary of controversy, as well as a spate of new state laws restricting education on race, gender and LGBTQ issues.

“I felt very bleak,” said Lisa Childers, an Arkansas teacher who was forced by an assistant principal, for reasons never stated, into yanking Wollstonecraft’s famous 1792 polemic from her high school English class in 2021.

The quiet censorship comes as debates over whether and how to instruct children about race, racism, U.S. history, gender identity and sexuality inflame politics and consume the nation. These fights, which have already generated at least 64 state laws reshaping what children can learn and do at school, are likely to intensify ahead of the 2024 presidential election. At the same time, an ascendant parents’ rights movement born of the pandemic is seeking — and winning — greater control over how schools select, evaluate and offer children access to both classroom lessons and library books.

In response, teachers are changing how they teach.

A study published by the Rand Corp. in January found that nearly one-quarter of a nationally representative sample of 8,000 English, math and science teachers reported revising their instructional materials to limit or eliminate discussions of race and gender. Educators most commonly blamed parents and families for the shift, according to the Rand study.

The Washington Post asked teachers across the country about how and why they are changing the materials, concepts and lessons they use in the classroom, garnering responses from dozens of educators in 20 states.

Here are six things some teachers aren’t teaching anymore.

“Slavery Is Wrong”

Greg Wickenkamp began reevaluating how he teaches eighth-grade social studies in June 2021, when a new Iowa law barred educators from teaching “that the United States of America and the state of Iowa are fundamentally or systemically racist or sexist.”

Wickenkamp did not understand what this legislation, which he felt was vaguely worded, meant for his pedagogy. Could he still use the youth edition of “An Indigenous Peoples’ History of the United States”? Should he stay away from Jason Reynolds and Ibram X. Kendi’s “Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, and You,” especially as Kendi came under attack from conservative politicians?

That fall, Wickenkamp repeatedly sought clarification from the Fairfield Community School District about what he could say in class, according to emails obtained by The Post. He sent detailed lists of what he was teaching and what he planned to teach and asked for formal approval, drawing little response. At the same time, Wickenkamp was fielding unhappy emails and social media posts from parents who disliked his enforcement of the district’s masking policy and his use of Reynolds and Kendi’s text. A local politician alleged that Wickenkamp was teaching children critical race theory, an academic framework that explores systemic racism in the United States and a term that has become conservatives’ catchall for instruction on race they view as politically motivated.

Finally, on Feb. 8, 2022, at 4:05 p.m., Wickenkamp scored a Zoom meeting with Superintendent Laurie Noll. He asked the question he felt lay at the heart of critiques of his curriculum. “Knowing that I should stick to the facts, and knowing that to say ‘Slavery was wrong,’ that’s not a fact, that’s a stance,” Wickenkamp said, “is it acceptable for me to teach students that slavery was wrong?”

Noll nodded her head, affirming that saying “slavery was wrong” counts as a “stance.”

“We had people that were slaves within our state,” Noll said, according to a video of the meeting obtained by The Post. “We’re not supposed to say to [students], ‘How does that make you feel?’ We can’t — or, ‘Does that make you feel bad?’ We’re not to do that part of it.”She continued: “To say ‘Is slavery wrong?’ — I really need to delve into it to see is that part of what we can or cannot say. And I don’t know that, Greg, because I just don’t have that. So I need to know more on that side.”

As Wickenkamp raised his eyebrows and pursed his lips, she added, “I’m sorry, on that part.”Wickenkamp left the Zoom call. At the close of the year, he left the teaching profession.

Contacted for comment, Noll wrote in a statement that “the district provided support to Greg with content through a neighboring school district social studies department head.” She did not answer a question asking whether she thinks teachers should be permitted to tell children that slavery was wrong.

Two educators in the District of Columbia were fired because they refused to implement the harsh, no-excuses pedagogy of the so-called “Relay Graduate School of Education.”

One of the fired educators was a respected principal of an elementary school, Dr. Carolyn Jackson-King. She objected to the practice of barking out commands to students and demanding unquestioning compliance. She said it was racist. She and another school employee who agreed with her—Marlon Ray—were fired.

I was invited to write a deposition on behalf of the fired educators, and I did. The Relay “no excuses” pedagogy would never be acceptable to middle-class parents of any race. Children are not dogs. They should not be trained like dogs. Why is this harsh treatment reserved for low-income Black children?

Peter Greene wrote about the case, which is going to trial in a few weeks at Forbes, where is a senior contributor.

When Relay Graduate School of Education was brought in by D.C. Public Schools to do staff training, administrators Carolyn Jackson-King and Marlon Ray blew the whistle on the disciplinary methods they mandated. The two lost their jobs, in what they claim was retribution for speaking out. They sued the district; now that lawsuit is finally moving forward.

Carolyn Jackson-King spent almost two decades working in the District of Columbia Public School system, including seven years as principal of Lawrence E. Boone Elementary School.

Jackson-King started there is 2014, inheriting a school that was chaotic, with fighting, low morale, and weak academics. Jackson-King started there when the school was still named Orr Elementary, after Benjamin Orr, D.C.’s fourth mayor. When a student in the predominantly Black school discovered that Orr had been a slave owner, Jackson-King worked with the school community to have the name changed to honor the school’s first Black principal.

Jackson-King was respected in that community (they reportedly called her Dr. J-K or Principal JK). She told WAMU, “In order to have a culture like the one we have at Boone, we have to build relationships and that’s what we do best.” Boone’s rating went from 1 star to 3 star. Jackson-King appeared to be a successful, well-respected principal who had lifted up a struggling school in an underserved community. Then Relay Graduate School of Education came to town.

The defendants opposed the Relay methods and refused to comply.

Their argument is not that complicated: They stood up for the students against a program they saw as abusive and racist (a point on which many authorities agree, including charter schools that had previously implemented the model), and the district retaliated by taking their jobs…

What is Relay GSE?

Relay Graduate School of Education was launched in 2007 as Teacher U. It was set up by three founders of charter school chains as a way to beef up the teacher pipeline for their schools. The founders had little formal teacher training of their own. In 2011 they changed the name to better reflect their expansive new plans, expanding Relay’s operations across the country.

Relay is not a graduate school in any traditional sense of the word. As Lauren Anderson, chair of the Education Department at Connecticut College, once put it:

It is a charter-style network of independent teacher preparation programs created by the leaders of three prominent charter school chains (Uncommon Schools, KIPP, and Achievement First), primarily as a means to bypass traditional teacher education.

Education historian Diane Ravitch wrote of Relay:

It has no scholars, no researchers, no faculty other than charter teachers. It is a trade school for teaching tricks of test-taking and how to control black and brown children and teach them to obey orders without questioning.

Please open the link and read the rest of this enlightening article.

If you have any personal experience with Relay and its pedagogy, please let me know or write a letter to the lawyer representing the two educators. The lawyer who represents them is Raymond C. Fay. He can be reached at:

Frankly, it is shocking that a successful principal would be fired because she refused to bow to the demands of a pretend “graduate school” led by charter school teachers with far less experience than she has. Relay’s leaders undoubtedly attended prep schools and elite suburban public schools where they were never subjected to “no excuses” pedagogy.

The Washington Post tells the story of a high school teacher who was accused of sexually assaulting a student. She was arrested and fired. The charges were dismissed for lack of evidence. The teacher sued the county and won a judgment of $5 million for the damage to her life and career.

I am reminded of an incident that happened in the D.C. public schools in 1991 when I was living in Washington and working for the George H.W. Bush administration. A story appeared in the Washington Post that a junior high school teacher was accused by eight students of sexual misconduct. With so many accusations, it appeared at first reading that the teacher was a dangerous child abuser.

However, the D.C. police interviewed each student separately, and eventually one of them confessed that the group had concocted the story to hurt the teacher because he assigned to much homework. They wanted to punish him. He was cleared but his reputation was destroyed.

Here are the details of this recent case:

The first clue that Kimberly Winters, a high school English teacher, had that a former student had accused her of sexually abusing him was when Loudoun County sheriff’s deputies in full riot gear burst into her bedroom one morning with their rifles drawn.

“It was very terrifying,” Winters said. “I still have nightmares. Big guns.”

Winters said the deputies yanked her out of bed, handcuffed her, and made her stand in the front yard of her Sterling, Va., home in her pajamas while they patted her down, in full view of the neighborhood.

When she went to the Loudoun jail, Winters said, she was strip-searched, which her lawyer said violated the sheriff’s policies because she wasn’t booked into the jail. But her mug shot was taken and distributed to the news media along with a press release saying she was charged with sexually abusing one of her students when he was 17. Soon, she was fired from her job at Park View High School, after teaching in Loudoun for eight years.

When Loudoun prosecutors looked at the case brought by Detective Peter Roque, they promptly dismissed all charges. Winters sued Roque and Loudoun Sheriff Mike Chapman (R). And after a five-day trial earlier this month, a Loudoun jury took less than two hours to find the two law enforcement officials liable for Winters’s economic and punitive damages. They awarded her $5 million.

It appeared Roque had not seriously investigated any of the student’s claims, said Winters’s lawyer, Thomas K. Plofchan. On a sworn search warrant application in November 2018, Roque had written, “Witnesses’ statements are corroborated by phone records,” but there were no records, Plofchan said the evidence showed.

Winters said she could not get a job for two years, even as a stock clerk in a grocery, with her master’s degree in teaching. She lost all of her friends, many from her years in Loudoun schools. And she developed intense anxiety, including an involuntary tremor. “It became so humiliating, I literally couldn’t go out of my house,” Winters said. “This has been going on for four years. The repeated trauma of having to relive this created this tremor. My entire body shakes.

There is more, if you can open the story. Basically, the mother and son had no evidence. No text messages, phone messages, photographs, notes.

The moral of the story is that accusations of this nature should not be made without corroborating evidence. If two people have a sustained relationship, there should be evidence. Otherwise every teacher lives in fear of false accusations.

Ms. Winters gave up teaching. She can’t go back.

Bill Phillis, retired deputy state superintendent of education and tireless advocate for public schools, discovered that the latest Republican effort to gut the State Board of Education violates the State Constitution.

He writes:

Unbelievable—Senate Bill 1, the Bill to render ineffective the State Board of Education violates the 1953 constitutional amendment which established the Board.

The Department of Education in Ohio is comprised of the State Board of Education, the superintendent of Public Instruction and the staff. Prior to the 1953 amendment, the education department, including the Superintendent of Public Instruction and staff (state education agency), constituted an administrative arm of the Governor’s office. This arrangement had been in place since 1913 after the Delegates to the 1912 Constitutional Convention proposed to replace the State Commissioner of Common Schools with the Superintendent of Public Instruction, which proposal, the citizens of Ohio approved on a statewide ballot. In 1939 a constitutional amendment proposal to establish a State Board of Education failed by a near two to one margin. The Depression may have been a factor in the overwhelming defeat.

In 1953 Ohioans passed a constitutional amendment to establish a State board of Education and Superintendent of Public Instruction to be selected by the Board. Prior to the 1953 amendment, the state education agency was completely under the control of the Governor. The State Board of Education, with the newly selected Superintendent of Public Instruction, began operation in January 1956; hence the state education agency operated as a 4th branch of government until the mid-1990’s when legislation was enacted to allow the appointment of eight members by the Governor.

Article VI, section 4 of the Ohio Constitution states that the respective powers and duties of the Board and Superintendent of Public Instruction shall be prescribed by law; however, this language does not authorize the legislature to transfer the core functions of the State Board to the Governor’s office. The 1953 amendment transferred the core functions from the Governor’s office to the State Board. That is why the amendment was passed.

The legislature should deal with this matter in a manner that respects the intent and language of the Constitution. This question should be submitted to the citizens of Ohio to determine if the 1953 amendment should be reversed.

Learn more about the EdChoice voucher litigation

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William L. Phillis | Ohio Coalition for Equity & Adequacy of School Funding | 614.228.6540||

Governor Greg Abbott and Lt. Governor Dan Patrick are crazy for vouchers, even though they would underwrite the tuition of students already in private schools and defund public schools. Behind them, of course, are rightwing billionaires. Here is a story by Forrest Wilder in the Texas Monthly of one sneaky effort that failed:

In October, I wrote about a wild, under-the-radar scheme in the Hill Country town of Wimberley to route taxpayer money to private schools around the state. Unbeknownst to almost anyone in the community, all-Republican members of the Wimberley ISD school board had spent much of last spring and summer laying the groundwork for a plan to create Texas’s first school-voucher program, using a loophole in state law.

The plot had been cooked up by a consortium of right-wing activists and donors, a politically connected charter-school executive, and Texans for Education Rights, a new nonprofit founded by Monty Bennett, a wealthy Dallas hotelier, and Aaron Harris, a GOP consultant from North Texas. Under a novel proposal floated by Texans for Education Rights, students would enroll in Wimberley ISD but attend private schools of their choice across Texas “at no cost to their families.”

Read Next: 

Inside the Secret Plan to Bring Private School Vouchers to Texas

Public education advocates called the plan a “Trojan horse for vouchers” and “a money grab.” The plan’s main local ringleader, an activist named Joe Basel, described it as the opening salvo in a battle to get the Texas Legislature to bless school choice. Other proponents promoted it as a way to “save kids” in struggling schools. (When the proposal ultimately failed in Wimberley, Basel pledged to shop it around to other districts.) The saga also showed the lengths to which proponents of school vouchers would go to circumvent the Legislature, which has repeatedly declined to establish a system that allows public dollars to be spent in private schools. If this all sounds kinda out there, you’re not mistaken. For the full tick-tock, read my investigation.

After the local school board abruptly pulled the plug in early August, Wimberley officials would only offer vague explanations on the record for why they did so, and some of the documents provided to Texas Monthly through the state’s open records law were heavily redacted. But now, newly obtained documents shed light on internal deliberations. They show that the school district’s principals and administrators, only recently debriefed on the proposal, were alarmed and upset by a concept that they and their peers would see as anathema to public education. Their staffs had no idea it was being considered. As the Legislature considers various school-choice proposals in its current session, the strange saga in Wimberley may offer a preview of what’s to come. It also suggests that some degree of support for school choice may come from school boards that have tilted far to the right.

In a mid-July memo to the Wimberley school board, superintendent Greg Bonewald, who had been on the job for just six weeks, seemed to unburden himself. He complained that he was being intimidated into rushing through a poorly thought-out proposal with virtually no input from educators or the community. He argued that the district would see no significant financial benefits from the scheme and seemed at pains to explain to his bosses on the board how unpopular vouchers were in public education circles. Many educators view vouchers as a mortal threat to public schools, a mechanism for subsidizing the education of the children of affluent families while depleting the resources of schools used by the kids of working-class families.

But Bonewald told his bosses in the memo that he had learned from the Texas Education Agency that Wimberley couldn’t expect any “significant financial benefit” from the enhanced per-student funding. Instead, almost all of those dollars would flow to the proposed “partner organization,” presumably the Dallas nonprofit founded by Bennett and Harris, along with the private schools. “There is nothing to indicate that this program is a short or long-term answer to budget challenges,” Bonewald wrote. At the same time, Wimberley would be ultimately responsible for the students’ safety, feeding, state accountability testing, and special-ed services.

Here’s what Bonewald’s memo reveals:

The middlemen and private schools would reap almost all the financial benefits. The Wimberley school board had embraced the proposal as a way to lighten the district’s financial burden in two ways. One, WISD could possibly tap into a rich vein of per-student funding offered to students enrolled in the voucher program. Each student would yield almost $6,900, about $700 more than the state’s basic per-pupil allotment of $6,160. Two, the district could reduce its so-called “Robin Hood” payments to the state—local tax revenue returned to the state by some property-rich districts—by adding new students to its rolls.

Bonewald had been subject to a campaign of intimidation. “I have experienced overt and covert efforts to intimidate me as the new leader,” he wrote the board, “to push forward with a process that I, our team, and potentially our Trustees do not fully grasp.” The superintendent doesn’t name the source of intimidation, and didn’t respond to a request for an interview, but elsewhere in the memo he refers to “multiple conversations” with Joe Basel and Tracey Dean. Basel is a self-described “systemic disruption consultant” best known for leading an effort to secretly videotape lawmakers, lobbyists, and others at the state capitol in 2015. Dean is the founder of Wimberley Area Republicans (WAR), a far-right GOP club that helped elect several of the conservative WISD board members.

Please open the link and keep reading.

Historian Heather Cox Richardson summarized Secretary of State Anthony Blinken‘s address to the U.N. Security Council Ministerial Meeting on Ukraine Sovereignty and Russian Accountability. We must never forget that Ukraine is a sovereign nation, and it is irrelevant that it belonged to Russia in the past or during the repressive era of the Soviet Union. Ukraine belongs to the people of Ukraine. I have highlighted sections of his speech that touched me. Open the link to read the footnotes.

She wrote:

“One year and one week ago—on February 17th, 2022—I warned this council that Russia was planning to invade Ukraine,” Secretary of State Antony Blinken told the United Nations Security Council Ministerial Meeting on Ukraine Sovereignty and Russian Accountability today.

“I said that Russia would manufacture a pretext, and then use missiles, tanks, soldiers, cyber attacks to strike pre-identified targets, including Kyiv,” Blinken continued, “with the aim of toppling Ukraine’s democratically elected government. Russia’s representative—the same representative who will speak today—called these, and I quote, ‘groundless accusations.’

“Seven days later, on February 24th, 2022, Russia launched its full-scale invasion.”

When Putin’s initial attack failed to give him control of Ukraine, Blinken continued, “he called snap referenda in four occupied parts of Ukraine, deported Ukrainians, bussed in Russians, held sham votes at gunpoint, and then manipulated the results to claim near unanimous support for joining the Russian Federation.”

“Over the last year,” Blinken said, “Russia has killed tens of thousands of Ukrainian men, women, and children; uprooted more than 13 million people from their homes; destroyed more than half of the country’s energy grid; bombed more than 700 hospitals, 2,600 schools; and abducted at least 6,000 Ukrainian children—some as young as four months old—and relocated them to Russia.

“And yet, the spirit of the Ukrainians remains unbroken; if anything, it’s stronger than ever.”

Blinken’s remarkable speech told the history of Russia’s 2022 invasion of Ukraine, then highlighted that the world community has come together to stand behind Ukraine and the principles of the United Nations Charter that make all countries safer and more secure: “No seizing land by force. No erasing another country’s borders. No targeting civilians in war. No wars of aggression.”

He noted that the war had caused hardship around the globe, but the “vast majority” of states in the United Nations have condemned Russia’s violations of the U.N. Charter, including 141 who voted for a resolution along those lines just yesterday.

When Putin tried to use hunger as a weapon to end sanctions, more than 100 countries stepped up to bring down world grain prices; when Putin tried to use energy as a weapon, the rest of the world redirected national gas supplies so that the countries he was targeting could keep their people warm, and Europe worked hard to end its dependence on Russian energy.

Blinken said that if we do not defend the basic principles of the U.N. Charter, “we invite a world in which might makes right, the strong dominate the weak. That’s the world this body was created to end.”

While everyone—especially Ukraine—wants peace, he said, that peace must be durable, not simply an excuse to let Russia rest, rearm, and relaunch the war. As Ukraine president Volodymyr Zelensky has outlined, any peace must honor Ukraine’s territorial sovereignty. Putin has rejected this condition out of the box, saying that Ukraine must accept his “annexation” of Ukraine’s territories.

Blinken reminded his listeners that not everything in the world has two sides. “In this war, there is an aggressor and there is a victim,” he said. “If Russia stops fighting and leaves Ukraine, the war ends. If Ukraine stops fighting, Ukraine ends. The fact remains: One man—Vladimir Putin—started this war; one man can end it.”

When Russia and its defenders say the ongoing war is diverting resources from others in need, Blinken said, “look at Moscow’s actions” and look at the numbers. Last year, the U.S. contributed $13.5 billion in food aid and funded more than 40% of the World Food Program’s budget. Russia pays less than 1% of that budget.

Blinken went on: “Based on the latest UN figures, the United States donates over nine times as much as Russia to UN peacekeeping. We donate 390 times as much as Russia to UNICEF. We give nearly a thousand times as much as Russia to the UN Refugee Agency.”

Blinken reminded his listeners that the atrocities we are seeing Russians commit in Ukraine are not normal. “Bucha is not normal,” he said. “Mariupol is not normal. Irpin is not normal. Bombing schools and hospitals and apartment buildings to rubble is not normal. Stealing Ukrainian children from their families and giving them to people in Russia is not normal.

“We must not let President Putin’s callous indifference to human life become our own.”

Today, the leaders of the international Group of Seven, known as the G7, met virtually with Zelensky. The G7 includes Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom and the United States, as well as the European Union.

The statement they issued echoed Blinken’s speech, then went on to pledge to continue food and humanitarian aid as countries suffer from the war, and to continue to design sanctions to make sure those countries continue to have access to food and fertilizers. The G7 leaders expressed “profound sympathy” for those affected by the “horrifying earthquakes in Türkiye and Syria” and pledged continued support.

“Above all,” they said, “our solidarity will never waver in standing with Ukraine, in supporting countries and people in need, and in upholding the international order based on the rule of law.”

The Biden administration today announced $2 billion in military aid to Ukraine, including drones, communications equipment, HIMARS rockets, and 155-millimeter artillery ammunition, while the G7 has increased its 2023 support for Ukraine to $39 billion, and both Germany and Sweden committed to sending more Leopard 2 tanks.

The deputy chair of Russia’s security council, former president Dmitry Medvedev, said today that Russia planned to “push the borders of threats to our country as far as possible, even if these are the borders of Poland.” Poland is a member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), meaning an attack on it would be an attack on the rest of NATO, including the United States.

At a press conference in Kyiv today, Zelensky said: “Victory will be inevitable. I am certain there will be victory.”

“We have everything for it. We have the motivation, certainty, the friends, the diplomacy. You have all come together for this. If we all do our important homework, victory will be inevitable.”

Timothy Snyder, the noted historian of democracy and tyranny at Yale University, wrote a post listing fifteen reasons why the world needs Ukraine to win and defeat Russian aggression against its very existence as a nation. Most important is to stop the genocidal slaughter of Ukrainians. The New York Times documented 339 significant cultural sites—museums, performing arts centers for theater, music, and dance, historical sites, and other cultural treasures—that have been destroyed in the Russian effort to eliminate Ukrainian existence as a nation.

He writes:

Why does the world need a Ukrainian victory?

1. To halt atrocity. Russia’s occupation is genocidal. Wherever the Ukrainians recover territory, they save lives, and re-establish the principle that people have a right not to be tortured, deported, and murdered.

2. To preserve the international legal order. Its basis is that one country may not invade another and annex its territory, as Russia seeks to do. Russia’s war of aggression is obviously illegal, but the legal order does not defend itself.

3. To end an era of empire. This could be the last war fought on the colonial logic that another state and people do not exist. But this turning point is reached only if Russia loses.

4. To defend the peace project of the European Union. Russia’s war is not directed only against Ukraine, but against the larger idea that European states can peacefully cooperate. If empire prevails, integration fails.

5. To give the rule of law a chance in Russia. So long as Russia fights imperial wars, it is trapped in repressive domestic politics. Coming generations of Russians could live better and freer lives, but only if Russia loses this war.

6. To weaken the prestige of tyrants. In this century, the trend has been towards authoritarianism, with Putinism as a force and a model. Its defeat by a democracy reverses that trend. Fascism is about force, and is discredited by defeat.

7. To remind us that democracy is the better system. Ukrainians have internalized the idea that they choose their own leaders. In taking risks to protect their democracy, they remind us that we all must act to protect ours.

8. To lift the threat of major war in Europe. For decades, a confrontation with the USSR and then Russia was the scenario for regional war. A Ukrainian victory removes this scenario by making another Russian offensive implausible.

9. To lift the threat of major war in Asia. In recent years, a Chinese invasion of Taiwan has been the leading scenario for a global war. A Ukrainian victory teaches Beijing that such an offensive operation is costly and likely to fail.

10. To prevent the spread of nuclear weapons. Ukraine gave up nuclear weapons. Russia, a nuclear power, then invaded. If Ukraine loses, countries that can build nuclear weapons will feel that they need to do so to protect themselves.

11. To reduce the risk of nuclear war. A Ukrainian victory makes two major war scenarios involving nuclear powers less likely, and works against nuclear proliferation generally. Nothing would reduce the risk of nuclear war more than Ukrainian victory.

12. To head off future resource wars. Aside from being a consistent perpetrator of war crimes, Russia’s Wagner group seizes mineral resources by violence wherever it can. This is why it is fighting in Bakhmut.

13. To guarantee food supplies and prevent future starvation. Ukraine feeds much of the world. Russia threatens to use that food as a weapon. As one Russian propagandist put it, “starvation is our only hope.”

14. To accelerate the shift from fossil fuels. Putin shows the threat that hydrocarbon oligarchy poses to the future. His weaponization of energy supplies has accelerated the turn towards renewables. This will continue, if Russia loses.

15. To affirm the value of freedom. Even as they have every reason to define freedom as against something — Russian occupation –, Ukrainians remind us that freedom is actually for something, the right to be the people they wish to be, in a future they can help shape.

I am a historian of political atrocity, and for me personally number 1 — defeating an ongoing genocidal project — would be more than enough reason to want Ukrainian victory. But every single one of the other fourteen is hugely significant. Each presents the kind of opportunity that generations of policy planners wish for, but almost never get. Much has been done, we have not yet seen and seized the moment.

This is a once-in-lifetime conjuncture, not to be wasted. The Ukrainians have given us a chance to turn this century around, a chance for freedom and security that we could not have achieved by our own efforts, no matter who we happen to be. All we have to do is help them win.

23 January 2023

PS What can you do personally? Keep in touch with your elected representatives. Support military and humanitarian assistance. Make your views known. Write a letter to the editor. Share this post widely. Fly a Ukrainian flag. Put a sticker on your computer. Buy and wear Ukrainian merch. In great causes, small gestures matter.

If you want to keep Ukrainian soldiers alive, consider supporting this Ukrainian NGO and this international NGO (a 501(c)3). Here is a way to keep Ukrainians warm during winter (a 501(c)3). One of my commitments, with wonderful colleagues, has been Documenting Ukraine, a project that supports those in Ukraine who are chronicling the war (also a 501(c)3, “Partners” here). Thank you for reading, thinking, caring, and doing.

Pensacola Christian College canceled a six-man group of a capella singers because it had reason to believe that one of the singers was gay. The concert was cancelled two hours before it was scheduled to begin. An audience of more than 5,000 people was expected. The group had performed there in the past. Actually, the group acknowledged that two singers were gay. Why the College found it objectionable to hear a gay man (or two) singing in an ensemble is not clear. Did college officials worry that the sound of his voice might turn students gay? It seems likely that the bigoted Governor DeSantis has lowered the standards of civility across the state.

Javier C. Hernandez wrote in The New York Times:

The King’s Singers, a renowned British a cappella ensemble, looked forward to its appearance last week at Pensacola Christian College in Florida, the final stop on the group’s four-city tour of the United States.

Instead, the college informed the ensemble two hours before the concert was to begin on Saturday that it was being canceled because of concerns about what it called the lifestyle of a singer, who is gay. Students, parents and staff members had complained to the administration, saying that hosting the group would run counter to the college’s Baptist values.

The school’s decision has drawn backlash, with artists, gay rights activists and the ensemble’s fans denouncing the college for homophobia and discrimination. The King’s Singers issued a statement on Monday expressing hope that “any conversations that follow might encourage a greater sense of love, acceptance and inclusion.”

In an interview on Tuesday, Jonathan Howard, a member of the six-person group, called the cancellation “really shocking” and “hurtful.” The singers led a workshop for Pensacola students on Saturday and had started rehearsing for the concert — a crowd of more than 5,000 was expected — when they were pulled aside by college officials and informed of the cancellation, he said.

Howard said it was the first time in the group’s 55-year history that an engagement had been canceled for reasons other than bad weather, war or the coronavirus pandemic. He also said the group had performed at Pensacola before….

Two members of the ensemble are gay, Howard said, though a statement by Pensacola Christian College made reference to only one. The statement provided by the school said it had canceled the concert after learning that one of the singers “openly maintained a lifestyle that contradicts Scripture.” It said it had treated the artists with “dignity and respect,” and that they were paid for the performance.

A section in the school’s articles of faith that refers to several verses in the New Testament says the community believes that “Scripture forbids any form of sexual immorality including adultery, fornication, homosexuality, bestiality, incest, and use of pornography.”

Will future performers on the Pensacola Christian College campus be screened to see whether any of them have committed adultery, fornication, bestiality, incest, or used pornography? Give them a lie detector test, and while they are at it, they should screen the college’s administrators, faculty, staff, and students.